Middle School Philosophy and Second Language Acquisition Theory: Working Together for Enhanced Proficiency


  • Karen Wolz Verkler

    1. University of Florida
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      Karen Wolz Verkler (Ph.D., University of Florida) is Foreign Language Consultant and Seminole County Spanish Instructor, Central Florida.


ABSTRACT  Many Florida middle schools offer to eighth graders a year-long Spanish I course identical to that at the high school level. Foreign language educators have frequently questioned whether middle school Spanish I students, whose school setting differs greatly from that of the high school, achieve language proficiency equivalent to that of high school Spanish I students. This study was conducted to determine the effects of school affiliation on the level of language competency attained by Spanish I students. Competency in all four language skills–listening comprehension, writing, reading comprehension, and oral production–was measured by a Spanish I Exam. Differences between the two groups in attitude toward foreign language learning were also examined.

The subjects in this study were 107 middle school eighth graders and 57 high school ninth graders enrolled in Spanish I classes in four Florida school districts. The Spanish I Exam was administered as a pretest at the beginning of the 1992–93 school year and as a posttest at the end of the school year. A Foreign Language Attitude Questionnaire was also given at the end of the school year. The teachers were instructed to conduct their classes as usual for the duration of the school year. Data on socioeconomic status (SES) and GPA, variables that might influence performance on the posttest and attitude questionnaire, were also collected.

To examine the effects of school affiliation, Spanish I Exam pretest score, SES, and GPA on each of the four language skills and on attitude toward the foreign language learning experience, multiple linear regression analyses were performed. The results indicated that there was a significant relationship between school affiliation and each of the posttest components. Middle school language achievement exceeded that of the high school in all four language skills. In addition, middle school attitude toward the foreign language learning experience was significantly more favorable than that of the high school. Pretest score and GPA, but not SES, were significantly related to language achievement and attitude.